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Local daycare search engine plans coast-to-coast expansion

CareLuLu, a company designed to give working parents peace-of-mind, plans to expand to Los Angeles in early 2014. Launched in August, the website not only lists but verifies information on over 100 day care and preschool programs in metro Washington, D.C.
Evgeniya “Jen” Usmanova, chief marketing officer, who cofounded the company with her husband, Patrick Matos, CEO, says the California launch will be followed by four other market launches, still to be determined, within 18 months.
CareLuLu is based on the couple’s experience. Usmanova took a break from work for the birth of her two children. When she wanted to resume her career, finding a child-care provider who could accommodate both her three-year old and her infant turned out to be difficult.
“I visited 16 centers,” says Usmanova, who, after talking with friends who’d had the same experience, decided there was a market for CareLuLu.
In mid-October, two months after launch, CareLuLu refined its business model. Before, child care providers paid to be listed on the website; now, providers are listed for free but an upgrade is available for a fee.
The website continues to be free to users, and it publishes comments written by parents.
The “premium model” for providers, with more detailed information, is being sold on a monthly or annual basis, for a minimum of $9 per month. Usmanova says the fee is geared to providers’ budgets, whether the provider is home-based, usually a small facility with a maximum of 12 children, or center-based, a larger facility.
CareLuLu verifies that all the listed day care and preschools are licensed by the state and/or have county permits. It describes their policies and highlights unique features. Depending on the plan, the website does other checks, for example, for playgrounds and security cameras.
The company was founded with about $100,000 in private investment. Usmanova says the company has been growing both in numbers of users and numbers of providers who contact it. The average week over week growth has been over 10 percent in traffic and users (sign-ups) and 25 percent in active users. 
CareLuLu has three full-time and one part-time employees. As it opens in other markets, Usmanova says it will be hiring in the future, and it is currently looking for salespeople and contributors.
After the West Coast launch next year, CareLuLu expects to move into four other markets, probably urban environments like New York City and Chicago where parents would use a service like the website.
“Our goal is to be nationwide within three to five years,” says Usmanova.

Read more articles by Barbara Pash.

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